10 ways to go beyond a simple “thank you” in different languages

2020 has been a testing year for us all, to say the least. As a way of expressing our gratitude to all our language learners, language instructors, translators, interpreters, volunteers & team members throughout, here are 10 ways of saying thank you — in Arabic, French, Persian and Spanish!

1. تسلم / تسلمي (Tislam/Tislami)

Coming from the root verb “سلم” or “salama” meaning “to come out safe/healthy”, this phrase means “May you stay safe”, and can be used as a way to thank someone, while literally also wishing well for their health and safety!

2. يعطيك العافية (Ya‘tik al-‘afiya)

Literally translating to “may [God] give you health,” this is a recognition of someone’s hard work and allows you to show your appreciation.

3. Merci de tout coeur (mekh-see dah tu ker)

A heartfelt phrase in French meaning, “thank you with all my heart”.

4. C’est très gentil à toi / vous (seh tkheh jan-tee a twa/voo)

In more formal settings, one might say “that’s very kind of you”. Remember to use “vous” when speaking in a respectful manner! 

5. Daste shomā dard nakone (دست شما درد نکنه )

Never realized how poetic Persian is? This phrase means “may your hand not hurt”, often used when someone gives you a gift or prepares food for you.

6. Ghorbāne shomā (قربان شما )

Literally meaning “your sacrifice”, this is an example of a Persian taarof or an Iranian sign of etiquette and politeness, displaying humility. Read more here for context.

7. Te la/lo debo (te la/lo de-bo)

Spanish for “I owe you” – use this with friends to let them know you’re grateful for them and you got them next time!

8. (Estoy) Muy agradecido/a (ehs-toy muy agra-de-cido/a)

This is a lovely way to say “(I’m) very grateful for you” – another version of “thank you so much”, as the adjective “agradecido” is translated as “grateful”.

9. Mamnoun(t)ak/ek (ممنونك/ممنونتك)

You may hear this Arabic loanword, “mamnoun” or “ممنون”, in Arabic or Persian, as a way to say “thank you” or “I’m grateful to you”.

10. Merci (mekh-see)

Don’t be surprised if you hear “merci”, a common way to say “thank you”, beyond francophone countries, it’s also common in Middle Eastern countries and even Iran!  

Here’s to reaching new language feats in 2021! 

Happy new year, كل سنة وأنتم بخير, Feliz año nuevo, Bonne année, سال نو مبارک, from the NaTakallam family to yours 🙂

P.S. In case you missed our thank you series in the past month, check them here in Arabic, Persian, French and Spanish!

Shabe Yalda: The longest night of the year

Blog contributor: Sayed, NaTakallam Persian tutor

Shabe Yalda; a night of welcoming. A night of love, light and rebirth of the sun. The night of Hafez and Bidel (Persian poets) and lovers in the hope of a bright sunrise and longer days to come.

Shabe Yalda (شب یلدا‎), or the Night of Yalda, is the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, also known as the winter solstice. It is also one of the most important ancient Persian traditions which is still celebrated today, on 20-21st of December

This night marks the longest and darkest night of the year, and in return celebrates the “rebirth of the sun” as the daylight would get longer – also coinciding with “Khurram ruz” (the day of the sun). This has been an important winter festival among rural people, based on agriculture and animal husbandry. The celebration of Shabe Yalda is also called “Shabe Chelleh” (شب چله‎), the night of the forty, because it is believed that the first forty days of winter are the coldest and toughest to bear.

In the Persian calendar*, this night refers to the time between sunset from 30th Azar (the last day of autumn and the 9th month of the Persian calendar) to sunrise on the 1st of Dey (the first day of winter, and the 10th month) – equivalent to 20th/21st of December.

*Fun fact: Did you know the Persian calendar is based on astronomical observations and is considered one of the closest to a perfect calendar according to this and this source? (The months are also aligned with the star signs!)

The word “Yalda” (یلدا‎) comes from the Syriac word, meaning “birth”. It is in fact thought that the ancient Persians (of Zoroastrian faith) adopted the annual ‘renewal of the Sun’ celebrations from the Babylonians and ancient Egyptians. Thereafter, the Persian Yalda festival and rituals reportedly entered ancient Rome as the “Saturnalia” celebration – where they honored the agricultural god, Saturn. For a full week, all social norms were reverted (the rich and the poor became equal, and masters served slaves) and gifts were exchanged.

Today, many friends and families from Iranian, Afghan, Tajik, Kurdish and Azeri communities come together to celebrate Shabe Yalda. Friends gather in groups or relatives usually at the home of grandparents or the elderly to spend the whole night waiting for the sun to rise. They pass the longest night with legends, stories and riddles, quoting the Shahnameh (the epic Book of Kings by Ferdowsi, and the longest poem ever written by a single author), reciting poems from Divan-e Hafez*, playing instruments, singing, having fresh fruits such as watermelon, persimmon and pomegranate, and “ajil”, آجیل, (a colorful mix of dried fruits, nuts and seeds).

*Reciting poems from Divan-e Hafez is a special tradition on this night. Each member, in turn, makes a secret wish or poses a secret question (in their heart), and opens a random page in the book, in which the elder member of the family, or best reciter/interpreter, reads the selected poem out loud. It is believed that the randomly selected poem is a response, guidance or direction to the secret wish or question. It is fun to guess the secret wishes of others when in groups, as well!

According to an old belief, the sun, with its sunrise, will break the back of darkness, and with its radiance, it will remove darkness from people’s lives. 

As Persians say… Shabe Yalda mobarak, شب یلدا مبارک – Happy Yalda Night!

Fascinated by Persian traditions, language and poetry? Get more insight into the culture with NaTakallam’s native instructors! Sign up here, today.

This piece was contributed by Sayed, our Persian Language Partner, based in Indonesia.

Sayed Mohammad Nabi was born in Afghanistan right after the Soviet withdrawal but has lived as a refugee in Iran and currently resides in Indonesia. He studied French language and literature at Kabul University and has a background in translation and interpretation. In his free time, he enjoys poetry, photography, and hiking. He’s been working with NaTakallam since the beginning of 2020.

The Human Rights Advocates teaching you languages :)!

Today, December 10th, marks Human Rights Day  – the day the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948…and a day to celebrate in all languages!

Did you know..?

Many of our Conversation Partners (CPs) are human rights advocates, themselves!

Mahmoud: Women’s Rights in the Middle East

“This year during COVID times I started an Instagram account supporting women rights and speaking on human rights topics in the Middle East. My goal is to shed light on the growing gender equality movement in the Middle East covering topics toxic masculinity, relationships, the upbringing of children and mental health. Moreover, I started working as a cultural mediator for the European network for the work with perpetrators of gender based violence, a project by the European Commission, and I will have my first webinar about this topic very soon, on the 10th of December!”

Mahmoud, Syrian CP based in Germany

Leila: Giving a voice to the voiceless

“Most of my studies are about voiceless people from the Middle East. This year during the very hard times of the pandemic, I started to focus on presenting my ideas and interpretations via zoom workshops and talks, as well as building a series of podcasts. In these podcasts, we try to educate the people about their past. Our goal is to show that there are always traces of subordinated voiceless people neglected by governments and some historians. The history is not only of well-off people, but all the human beings, despite their ethnicity, sex, and social class, should have their space in history. The history of the Middle East, in most cases, is comprised of the stories of victorious kings, armies, and masculinity-we are trying to transform all these presumptions. I am also writing applications and hope to get some amount of money to continue my project on voiceless people in Europe.”

– Leila, Persian CP based in Sweden

Luis: Fighting against corruption


”I am a former anti-corruption prosecutor and I worked in high impact cases within my country, which were of national significance. One of them even transcended in the United States of North America. In the cases that I work, I managed to prosecute high officials of the State as well as powerful national and international businessmen, which represented an harassment of me in social networks, complaints against me by the same people that I processed… reaching such harassment to control my family and me in our home, which brought me to my current refugee situation in the United States. As there is no support or protection from the institutions of the State of Guatemala despite various complaints that I present making known the danger that my family and I were facing. But in the same way, I feel very happy with the work I did, because fighting corruption is synonymous to support for Human Rights. Since corruption limits people to have access to good education, food, health, housing, among others, and despite being away from my home and loved ones, I know that I did the right things in the right way.”

– Luis, Guatemalan CP based in the US

Fanar: Refugee & Asylum Rights to Resettlement


“After more than 4 years of waiting in my host country, I am finally getting the chance to have an asylum visa to France through the French Embassy. It was like a miracle for me to get it especially in this hard year for most of the people. I didn’t believe in good in this world, but we found very good hearted people that helped and still want to help us.

I am expecting to travel in the next few days with my family and I am very excited to move to a new country and have a life after years of being a refugee in Jordan, or I wasn’t even recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR. I hope this gives hope to others who are in need for it.

NaTakallam is a great opportunity for me because I cannot work in Jordan because I am an asylum seeker. I feel happy and hopeful every time I get a new student. NaTakallam is the place where I can meet different and new young people that encourage me to look forward. I am very glad to be one of the CPs in such a wonderful organization. I feel liked and confident whenever I talk to one of my students. I can see their kindness in their words and compliments that makes me so happy and satisfied. There are students that care for my asylum status and try to send me online jobs: one time my sister got a job because of my student sending me a link she found and thought of us!”

– Fanar, Iraqi CP based Jordan, soon moving to France

Join us today, and every day, in celebrating human rights, and all the unsung heroes around the world who’ve stood up for humanity. 

Wanna get to know these heroes further & even perhaps, learn languages with them?
 Sign up for language sessions (in 5 languages) with them here!
Or maybe even gift them to loved ones this holiday season.

5 Ways to say “thank you” in Persian

For our last series of “thank yous”,we’re highlighting 5 culturally meaningful ways to express gratitude in Persian!

1. Sepās-gozāram (سپاسگزارم)

Mostly for formal settings, and with roots dating back to ancient Persia, the term “Sepās-gozāram” (سپاسگزارم), meaning “I am grateful” can also be used in a more casual way with, “Sepās” (سپاس).

Want to impress? Feel free to add “kheyli” (very) before “sepās-gozāram” to emphasize your gratitude.

2. Mersi (مرسی) or Merci

Looking for a more colloquial term? Go for the French loan word, “Merci” – but roll the r to pronounce as “mer-see”. It leans more on the informal side but remains common across Farsi-speaking communities. In return, expect to hear “khahesh mikonam” (you’re welcome).

3. Daste shomā dard nakone (دست شما درد نکند )

This phrase, which literally means “may your hand not hurt”, is frequently used when someone gives you a gift* or even in situations related to food or physical assistance. 

“Shoma” is a formal pronoun for “you”, similar to the French “vous”. Make this phrase informal with this slight tweak: “Dastet dard nakone”.

*Try this out if you happen to give/receive our Persian Gift of Conversation to/from a loved one this holiday season 😉

4. Kheili lotf dārid (خیلی  لطف دارید)

Remember that “kheyli” = very? This phrase literally translates to “You have much kindness” or “That’s very kind of you”. This can be used when receiving compliments, gifts, or even declining favors thoughtfully and with kindness.

5. Ghorbāne shomā (قربان شما )

Literally meaning “your sacrifice”, this is an example of a Persian taarof, or an Iranian sign of etiquette and politeness. When someone compliments you, instead of saying “thank you” to accept the compliment (culturally, it is more common to display modesty and deny the compliment), you would reply “ghorbāne shomā” simply displaying humility. The literal meaning is that you would sacrifice yourself for the person… as a sign of affection that is 😉

P.S. For a more informal use, ditch the formal “shoma” and use “Ghorboone to” or “Ghorboonet”.

Similar to Arabic, these translations can come across as quite dramatic but also reflect the beauty of the Persian language (and its poetry)!

Lastly, remember “mamnoun” or “ممنون” from our Arabic blog? Persians use it too! If you’re hooked on the links between Arabic and Persian, check this out: both of the Persian words “تشکر” (tashakkur) and “متشکرم” (motashakkeram) come from the Arabic root “sh-k-r”, meaning “to thank” exactly like shukran!

Now that you’re basically an expert, put your skills into action! 

Book a one-on-one Persian language session here.

Or.. give our Gift of Conversation to Persian-learning friends.

5 Ways to say “thank you” in French

Here are 5 ways to give thanks in the beautiful language of French! 

P.S. If you’re just tuning in, check out our previous posts on Arabic and Spanish ways of expressing thanks! 😉

1. Merci (mekh*-see)

Merci is most commonly used to say “thank you” in French. The response you’ll hear? “De rien”, which literally translates to “from nothing”, meaning “you’re welcome”. You might also hear a “de rien” equivalent: “avec plaisir” (with pleasure). 

Fun fact, “merci” is common in French speaking countries across the MENA region, as well as Farsi-speakers!

*The “kh” sound, like in the Arabic ‘Khaled’, is the equivalent of the French “r” when inside a word!

2. Merci infiniment (mekh-see an-fee-nee-man)

You can build many derivatives of “merci” in the French language by adding a complement. For example, “merci beaucoup” (thank you very much), “merci bien” (thanks a lot), “merci mille fois” (thank you a thousand times) and the strongest, “merci infiniment” translating to “thanks infinitely”.

3. C’est très gentil à toi / vous (seh tkheh jan-tee a twa/voo)

In more formal settings, one might say “that’s very kind of you”. It generally follows “merci” and can be used when someone does you a favor.

Just a tip: if you’re thanking an elder, or in a situation that requires you to use the polite form, use the formal counterpart of “toi” which is “vous”: “C’est très gentil à vous” 🙂

4. Merci de tout coeur (mekh-see dah tu ker)

A heartfelt phrase meaning “thank you with all my heart”. It’s also sometimes used with the verb “j’espère”, to express hope. For example: “J’espère de tout coeur que tu vas réussir cet examen”, meaning “I hope with all my heart that you’ll pass this exam”.

5. Cimer (see-mekh)

Spice up the standard “merci” by using its inverse, “cimer”. Just be warned: this is VERY slang French, also known as “verlant” and used mostly in conversations in a younger crowd. 

Level up your skills with one of NaTakallam’s native conversation partners or Gift a Conversation to French-learning friends!

À bientôt!

10 Fun Facts about Cinnamon

There’s more to cinnamon than being the perfect holiday spice. Once a prized gift for monarchs and reportedly worth 15x more in value than silver, here are some fun facts proving cinnamon’s history is as rich as its flavor!

1. Cinnamon’s broad range of uses made it invaluable in Ancient Egypt: preserving meat through the winter, treating sore throats, and it was even used as a perfume throughout the embalming process!

2. Cinnamon was an Arab merchant’s best-kept secret! To maintain their monopoly on the spice, they came up with quite the range of stories about their supply source…  

Apparently the 5th century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus recalled people leaving large pieces of ox meat under birds nests, believing large birds carried cinnamon sticks from unreachable mountain tops.


(A concoction of cinnamon, cardamom, and olive oil was used as perfume in Ancient Egypt, maybe even by Cleopatra! via: Daily Mail)

3. Zakaria al-Qazwini – a Persian author and physician of Arab descent – is thought to be the first to mention that the spice is native to Sri Lanka, in his work “آثار البلاد و أخبار العباد” (“Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen”) around 1270.

4. Spanish explorer Gonzalo Pizarro set out to the Amazon hoping to find “pais de la canela” or “cinnamon country” after Christopher Columbus falsely claimed he found cinnamon in the “New World”.


5. Eventually, the Dutch rule over Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) monopolized the cinnamon trade for over 200 years!


6. There are two types of cinnamon we know and love today. You probably use cassia cinnamon for your holiday sweets. It’s primarily produced in Vietnam, China and Indonesia – and is the affordable variant. 

But if you want to splurge on true cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, still produced in Sri Lanka is the way to go! It’s the preferred cinnamon choice in Central America, South America and South Asia and offers a milder, sweeter flavor – perfect for a rich cup of hot chocolate on a winter day!

7. The English word “cinnamon” is derived from the Ancient Greek “κιννάμωμον” (kinnámōmon), via Latin and medieval French. The Ancient Greek term itself is borrowed from a Phoenician word, said to be related to the Hebrew “קינמון‎” (qinnāmōn). In turn, this Hebrew name may come from the Sri Lankan source of the spice, since cinnamon in Singhalese is “kurundu”.

8. Several European languages use some derivation of the Latin “canna”, meaning “tube”, for cinnamon, e.g. French “canelle” and Spanish “canela”. This refers to the curled shape of the spice.

9. Interestingly, since the source of cinnamon was kept secret by early Arab merchants, some falsely believed the spice to be native to China. This explains why some languages refer to cinnamon as a Chinese export, for example “دارچین‎” (daarcheen) in Persian translates literally to “Chinese tree”! (PS. The Turkish word for cinnamon,“tarçın”, and Kurdish “darçîn”, are derived from the Persian, too!)

10. Cinnamon is one of the staple spices used particularly in Arab and Persian cuisines. It’s an element of the Persian spice blend called “ادویه‎” (advieh), as well as used in the delicious Lebanese couscous dish “moghrabieh”, meaning “a dish from the Maghreb”, among others!

Fascinated by the culture and history of word translations and etymologies? Or know someone who is?

Dive deeper with NaTakallam’s Conversation Sessions or give the Gift of Conversation this holiday season to loved ones. Available in Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, French, and Spanish.

5 ways to express “thank you” in Spanish

“Bienvenido/a”! Our blog post last week highlighted 5 ways to say “thank you” in Arabic.

This time: It’s all about Español!

1. Gracias (grah-see-ahs)

The most common way to say “thank you” in Spanish can be used anywhere and anytime: from receiving your “café con leche” at the cafe or thanking someone for holding the door open! You can also add “muchas” in front of the word to give “many” thanks to someone throughout all Spanish speaking countries. 

A simple response to this would be “de nada” meaning, you’re welcome, or quite literally “from nothing”

2. (Estoy) Muy agradecido/a (ehs-toy muy agra-de-cido/a)

This is a lovely way to say “(I’m) very grateful for you” a politer version of “thank you so much”. The adjective “agradecido” is translated as “grateful”, and preceding it with “Estoy muy…”  will earn you bonus points! Remember to modify masculine “agradecido” to “agradecida” if you’re speaking to a female!

3. Eres un sol (eres un sol)

This is slang-Spanish so make sure to read the room first! “Eres un sol” literally means “you are a sunshine” and by calling this person “the sun” or “sunshine” you’re thanking them for something! For example, if you give your Spanish-speaking friend a gift, you may receive a flattering “eres un sol”, similar to the English term of endearment “You’re a doll!”

4. Eres recapo/a (eres reh-capo/a)

Anyone looking to head to Argentina once lockdowns ease up? This is a term used by Argentines to mean “You’re the best!” when you want to go beyond just “gracias”. 

Did you know, the “acento argentino” or Argentine accent of Spanish is influenced by Italian, due to large waves of Italian immigration to Argentina in the 19th & 20th centuries? You may even hear Argentinians use the word “chao”, to mean “bye” derived from the Italian “ciao”!

5. Te la/lo debo (te la/lo de-bo)

Spanish for “I owe you” Instead of responding with a simple “gracias” if your friend buys you tickets to see “partido de fútbol” or “a football match”, you can say “te la/lo debo”, to let them know you got them next time! 

Now, want to put your motivation into action?

“¡Vámonos!” Lets go… Book a conversation session, here,  with one of our native Spanish conversation partners or gift a conversation, here, to a loved one near or far!

5 ways to say thank you in Arabic

The holidays are (almost) here! As the US kicks off Thanksgiving weekend (next week), and we enter the season of giving and thanks, we’re exploring the many ways of giving thanks in Arabic.

Although each country has its own colloquial dialect (عامية) or “‘aammiya”, these 5 ways to say “thank you” can be almost universally understood throughout the MENA region.

1. شكراً (Shukran)

Shukran is used in all Arabic-speaking countries, in both formal and informal settings, and understood widely among all tongues of Arabic language speakers. It comes from the root verb “شكر” “shakara” meaning “to thank”. A common response? You may hear العفو (“al-’awfoo”) or عفوا (“’af-waan”) which literally means “to forgive/pardon”, and is the equivalent to “don’t mention it” or “no problem”.

2. تسلم/تسلمي (Tislam/Tislami)

Heard most commonly throughout the Levant and parts of the Gulf – this phrase comes from the root verb “سلم” or “salama” meaning “to come out safe/healthy”. It can be used if a friend or family member does something nice for you!

Add إيديك/ي or “ideyk/i” to this phrase’s end to quite literally say “may your hands enjoy health” a way of thanking the hands that give you something!

3. ممنونك/ممنونتك (Mamnoun(t)ak/ek)

Pronounced “mamnountak/ek” from a female speaker, and “mamnounak/ek” from a male speaker, you may hear this throughout the Levant region as a way to say “thank you” or “I’m grateful to you”. 

If you’ve got this down, you know some Persian too! This Arabic loanword, “mamnoun” or “ممنون” is commonly used for “thank you” by Persian speakers as well!

4. يعطيك العافية (Ya‘tik al-‘afiya)

Literally translating to “may [God] give you health,” this is a recognition of someone’s hard work and allows you to show your appreciation. You may hear the reply “Allah y-afik” also meaning (May God bless you with good health) in response. 

FYI – In Moroccan Darija, “‘afiya” means fire, so please be cautious in Morocco as this phrase will be taken the wrong way!

 5. يكثر خيرك (Yekather Khairak/ek)

A shorthand version of the fuller sentence meaning “I wish [that God] increases your welfare”, this phrase can be a way of saying “Thank you so much for helping me” across the Arab world. “Khair” (خير) is the noun meaning “good,” often heard when someone asks “How are you?”.

While this is just a sampler, NaTakallam’s conversation partners can surely tell you more about the subtleties of Arabic. 

Sign up for sessions here! Offer the gift of conversation to loved ones, near or far, here!

5 ways to change the world – even under lockdown

Lockdown, round 2? 

Believe it or not, that act of staying indoors—in itself—is saving lives. 

As we continue to experience pressure these days – worrying news worldwide, anxiety about an even greater winter Covid-wave and, getting used to remote work (again) – something remains unchanged: the aspiration to make a difference.

Here are our – non-exhaustive – suggestions of 5 great ways to change the world from home.

1. Support worthwhile causes


While many of us are taking a financial toll due to the new restrictions, others are fortunate to be able to continue working from home, business (almost) as usual. If you’ve saved cash from skipping restaurants or shopping, consider donating to cause or browsing the web for holiday gifts with a cause.

There are plenty of phenomenal organizations to choose from, and many have lost funding due to a shift towards covid-related initiatives.

→ CharityWatch provides a topic-based list.

2. Grow your own urban balcony garden

Grow your own urban balcony garden. Pollution in many areas under full lockdown went down earlier this year, so while we breathe cleaner air, the climate crisis continues to threaten the survival of hundreds of species – including our own.

Growing an urban garden will allow you to get in touch with nature, its rhythm, cycles, feeling part of something bigger than yourself. Your balcony will look even greater, and might even come in handy for a bit of cooking! You’ll also reap benefits to your mood and productivity!

3. Get inspired by a talk or podcast!


Everyone loves a good podcast, TED Talk or other. Get cozy, and get inspired.

In line with our mission to support displaced persons, here’s a selection of powerful refugee and displacement related content (and a few uplifting ones!).

Are We There Yet? by The American Life, to hear what it’s truly like in refugee camps in Greece

Let’s Help Refugees Thrive, Not Just Survive by Melissa Fleming, real talk more relevant today than ever

Border(less) by Kerning Cultures, on navigating Europe’s elusive borders as refugees

→ The Surprising Science of Happiness by Dan Gilbert, when you need a ~scientific~ reason to 🙂

How to Make Stress your Friend by Kelly McGonigal, when you have overwhelming days.


4. Take advantage of online courses, especially those in social change and impact!


5. Boost your language learning skills 🙂

NaTakallam generic banner

We will be honest: our mission is to support refugees and their host communities worldwide. We would love for you to consider learning a new language while supporting our incredible refugee tutors, teachers, and translators.

Travel the world through your screen with NaTakallam, make a new friend, practice a language!

Click here to learn Arabic, French, Kurdish, Persian, or Spanish!

* * * * *

And if you’re able to… stay home! Flatten the curve, protect yourself and those around you. Above all, stay positive 🙂

Which global leaders speak more than one language?

Election fever is at an all-time high… but have we ever stopped to think about the languages candidates speak?

Sure, Pete put multilingualism in the spotlight during his time running for the primaries… but how do our current runners fare?


With US elections less than a week away, we’re looking both back in history and ahead to see which US Presidents were bilingual – or even polyglots – and how other global leaders fare.


While one would assume world leaders need to speak multiple languages to handle  diplomatic relations and enhance ties abroad, only 20 out of 45 (44%) US presidents spoke a second language. The most multilingual of all US Presidents was allegedly President John Quincy Adams – reportedly fluent in seven other languages: French, Dutch, Russian, Latin, Greek, Italian and German. 


President Thomas Jefferson was known for speaking Spanish, but he also studied French, Italian, Latin and Greek, while his library reportedly included Arabic and Welsh dictionaries. Sadly, there has not been a bilingual US president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Today, some of the most well-known leaders of English speaking countries – the United States, Australia and New Zealan – are monolingual, even though Jacinda Ardern, from New Zealand, apparently wishes she had learned Maori.


Some famous monolingual world leaders

1. Donald Trump (USA) – English

2. Xi Jinping (China) – Mandarin

3. Scott Morrison (Australia) – English

4. Alberto Fernandez (Argentina) – Spanish

5. Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil) – Brazilian Portuguese

6. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico) – Spanish

7. Yoshihide Suga (Japan) – Japanese

8. Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi (Egypt) – Arabic

9. Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand) – English (wishes she had learned Maori)


At NaTakallam, our experience has shown us that learning a language doesn’t stop at syntax. Learning a language provides much more than words – it opens doors to new cultures, builds empathy, and fosters intercultural understanding. Multilingualism can provide an avenue for conflict prevention and diplomacy, helping avoid misunderstandings, and perhaps even prevent wars and conflict from escalating.


Multilingual world leaders are of course not without fault, but here’s a look at the panoply today: 


Some famous multilingual world leaders

1. Emmanuel Macron (France) – French, English, German

2. Angela Merkel (Germany) – German, English, Russian

3. Boris Johnson (UK)- English, Latin, French, Italian – (we were surprised too!)

4. Pedro Sanchez (Spain) – Spanish, English, French

5. Sahle Work-Zewde (Ethiopia) – Amharic, French, English

6. Vladimir Putin (Russia) – Russian, German and a little English (we specify – a little…)

7. Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) – German, French, English

8. Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) – English, Afrikaans, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Ndebele, Isizulu, Setswana, Sepedi, IsiXhosa

9. Giuseppe Conte (Italy) – Italian, English

10. King Abdullah II (Jordan) – Arabic, English


Studies have shown that learning a foreign language directly correlates to the learner’s ability to empathize with and enhance understanding towards the speakers of that language and subsequently, their culture. Bilingualism or even, multilingualism fosters cross-cultural connection to the benefit of everyone involved. Language learner Katie Santamaria, emphasizes that, “Understanding each other’s intricacies [..] is an opportunity that shouldn’t go to waste.”


In an increasingly divided world, cultural understanding and respect destroy the walls our world leaders try (and fail at) building.


In a recent debate, Biden surprised us all with his appropriately sarcastic use of the famous “Inchallah” – which means God Willing in allusion to Trump sharing his tax records… one day. As for Trump himself, his Spanish skills are just great. 🙂 


Given what the world’s looking like, this election season, we’re offering any president or presidential candidate a bundle of 10 Free NaTakallam sessions ;). Send us an email with your special request at info@natakallam.com!


Yalla, what are you waiting for? After all… ❝If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞‒Nelson Mandela